If you’re a beginner poker player then it’s worth getting to grips with some slang and common phrases to feel like an insider.
Knowing it won’t make you a better player but at least you’ll be able to understand what others are talking about and will enjoy the game more as a result.
A basic and predictable strategy where you only play and bet strong hands, and fold everything else. Also known as playing by the book.
“Airball” or “airballing” is when a player is bluffing with complete “air,” meaning no actual hand and no realistic chance of improving.
A common name for pocket aces that comes from the hand’s abbreviation of “AA.”
Being the strongest hand in Texas Hold’em, pocket aces have several other nicknames, another common one being “pocket rockets.”
Refers to a player’s chip stack. When you’re out of ammo, it means you no longer have chips.
You’ll find that a number of poker slang terms
have been borrowed from the military.
When a player intentionally tries to take advantage of others using tactics that aren’t against the rules but are considered unethical.
You’ll usually find this term in the phrase “shooting an angle.” An example would be a player who hides their big chip denominations or falsely announces their hand at a showdown.
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Describes a player’s skills and plays.
Someone with a big arsenal is capable of pulling different plays at different times to throw their opponents off and take maximum advantage of a situation.
The better you know and understand all strategy nuances and various moves, the more arsenal you have at the table.
A common term for a gunshot, also known as “inside straight draw.”
Refers to thee kind of straight draw where only four cards in the deck can be used to fill the gap and give the player a made straight.
For example, if you have 98 on A65, you have a
belly buster because only one out of four 7s can make your straight.
Big Blind Special
When the player in the big blind wins the pot or makes a strong hand, usually because they were able to see the flop for free.
If you’re a fan of poker shows, you’ll probably have heard this phrase quite often.
Refers to Ace-King of any suit – the hand you definitely want to play.
AK also has tons of popular names starting with the initials, such as Anna Kournikova, Korean Airlines, or AK-47 to name a few.
Sometimes used by poker commentators to describe a situation where two or more players are about to get involved in a huge pot.
This is usually a scenario where all involved
players have a big hand or a big draw, so it’s quite likely all chips will go
into the middle, resulting in several players being eliminated from the
tournament or having their stacks decimated.
Used to describe a card that doesn’t complete any possible draws and is of no relevance to a current hand.
Busting refers to losing all of your chips or
It can be used in a couple of different
situations, for example, you can be busted from the tournament because you lost
all of your chips.
The same could be said about cash games if you
lose all the money and you can’t reload anymore.
It can also refer to a situation where a player loses their entire bankroll and has no money to play poker anymore, so they are busted.
Describes the hole cards 74o, with the suited version sometimes referred to as “Cambodian Slick”.
The term originates from New York City cardrooms, but there’s no real explanation for where it got its name.
Used to describe a player who’s been getting dealt good hands for the entire session or a tournament.
A “cardrack” will often go on a heater, getting big pocket pairs, hitting all of their draws, and stacking many players in the process.
A practice that’s only found in poker tournaments and is when one player intentionally loses to another player to transfer chips from one stack to another.
Players can chip dump for a variety of reasons,
but the most common scenario is when two players are colluding in a tournament
and one of them accumulates a big stack, allowing them to “share” some of their
Chip dumping is against the rules and can lead to a tournament suspension or even money confiscation if players get caught doing it.
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Used to describe actions that don’t make sense and are done just for the sake of doing something, mostly referring to players who don’t understand what they’re doing.
The term originated from online poker, but it’s also used in live games these days.
A nickname for the starting hand Q7o.
Modern-day poker relies heavily on math and
numbers. People have come up with all sorts of calculations, especially for the
Someone worked out that the hand Q7o was the worst profitable starting hand with slightly positive equity against a random hand, which got dubbed “computer hand.”
Describes a situation where both players have a very strong hand and no matter how they play it, all of their money is likely to end up in the middle of the pot.
A cooler is
a situation that can’t be avoided and ends up costing one of the players a lot
A nickname for pocket kings (KK) that’s used by both players and poker commentators.
When you’re dealt any combination of pocket
threes, you’re dealt crabs.
The nickname likely originates from the fact the number three on the cards looks a bit like a sideways crab.
Credit Card Roulette
A practice used by players to determine who’ll pay the check (dinner, drinks, etc.). Everyone throws their credit card into a hat or a box, and the lucky winner gets to pay for everyone.
Although this isn’t strictly a poker term, you’ve
probably heard it a few times, especially if you like to tune in for streams
and podcasts of highs stakes players.
Sometimes you’ll even hear individual players complaining about running on the wrong side of variance playing credit card roulette.
Nickname for any starting hand combo containing a 9 and a 5.
The name originates from the famous song “9 to 5” performed by Dolly Parton. You might also hear it being called a “full-time job”.
It’s less common these days and tends to be used by more seasoned players.
Refers to someone who doesn’t know how to play well.
Although there’s no steadfast definition of a “poker donkey” you’ll probably know it when you see it.
A term used to describe a player running poorly and on the wrong side of variance.
It originates from online poker and the theory that poker sites have a certain “switch” they can turn to make particular players win or lose more often.
Although most players take this as a joke, some genuinely do believe sites operate this way to stop you winning too much money.
It’s only a myth, so don’t worry.
Pocket deuces (twos) are often referred to as ducks, thanks to the number 2’s slight resemblance to a duck.
Describes a chip stack that contains a random number of different denomination chips, all mixed together.
It’s good etiquette (and often a rule) to organize your chips properly in piles, with the larger denominations at the front for other players to see.
A motion used to celebrate winning a pot or another positive outcome at a table.
It’s become quite common to refer to other situations as well, such as “fist-pump shove” – being thrilled to move all-in after your opponent bets into your monster.
The term “gapper” is used to describe hole
cards that have the potential to make straights (connectors).
The number of cards needed in the middle is the “gap” so if you have a hand like 5-7, you have a one-gapper (the 6 is missing).
A hand like 7-10 is a two-gapper, etc.
Describes a player’s ability to adjust to different situations and find the best play available to them on the spot.
Such a player is capable of shifting gears as
required, just as if they were driving a car.
An abbreviation of a good game, often used online to express gratitude for a good match.
It can also be used ironically to make fun of weaker players or when someone makes a very bad play.
When a player “goes south” in a poker game, it means they removed a portion of their chips from the table in order to reduce their stake.
This is against the rules in most games and can even be called an angle shoot.
All the money you win has to remain in play until you decide to get up and leave, so be sure to avoid “going south” – no matter what.
If you watch poker training videos or hand reviews, you’ll often come across the term “hero.” This is refers to the player whose hand is being reviewed or the one you are focusing on.
A stack of “high society” refers to the stack of the highest denomination chips available in the casino.
Although the term is used by gamblers in general, it was made famous in poker circles thanks to the cult movie Rounders.
Hit And Run
This is when
you decide to leave the game very soon after winning a huge pot or several
banks in a row.
players use this to protect their winnings but it’s considered unethical
behavior and shouldn’t be something you practice a lot.
A player who is being backed by someone else to play in a certain tournament or a cash game.
The “horse” provides their skills and the backer provides part of or the full buy-in. Any profits are shared as agreed between both parties.
Refers to a straight (draw). When a player has a draw to a straight where they can only make the lowest straight possible, with one or more options for bigger straights, they are said to be drawing to the idiot end of the straight.
Another name for raising all-in, “jam” describes a situation where you put all your money in the middle of the pot.
Similar to a donkey, poker players use the term “live one” to describe a player who’s not very good at poker and is therefore an easy target at the table.
A “live one” usually plays a lot of hands, has
a reasonably big bankroll, and doesn’t mind losing as long as they’re having
The game of “Lodden Thinks” was popularized by high stakes players such as Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak.
Although it has nothing to do with poker, it’s often used as an activity between hands.
Players will bet on what another player thinks
about a certain topic.
The player who plays the part of “Lodden” will write down their answer, and other players will place their bets. What makes the game fun is that the answer doesn’t have to be at all true.
It’s about what other players may think, so it
involves a certain degree of psychology and reading abilities.
“Muck” is another
name for folding.
However, mucking is mostly used to describe a situation at a showdown where your opponent shows a better hand than you, so you decide to muck (fold) without showing your holdings.
A term used to describe a game where all players are playing very tightly and cautiously.
It usually has negative connotations, as a “nitfest” table provides very little fun or excitement.
In the world of poker, there are low and medium
stakes, there are high stakes, and then there are the nosebleeds.
The term is used to describe ultra-high stakes
games where huge amounts of money are on the line all the time.
An excellent example of true nosebleeds is cash
games in Macau, where winning or losing a few million dollars in a session
isn’t a big deal.
You’re probably familiar with the term “the nuts”
which is used to describe the best possible poker hand in a given situation.
The term “nut nut” is the next level, though,
as it is the hand that’s both the nuts and the one that has a chance to improve
even further to even better nuts.
For example, you could have a flopped nut straight with a draw to the best possible flush. In that case, you have what poker players like to call “nut nut.”
Another term originating from the online world,
“pwned” means pretty much the same thing as “owned” – but it’s a bit more than
When you get “pwned” it means you were either severely outplayed, or the other player got super lucky.
Either way, a bulk of your chips will be moving across the table.
Used to describe bad and completely unplayable cards.
This means anything that has a very small chance of improving and should be instantly folded preflop, such as 92o, J3o, etc.
Another expression you might hear in the same context is “napkins.”
You’re probably familiar with the term “busto”, used when a player busts out of the tournament or loses all of their money.
“Robusto” has the opposite meaning.
It describes someone who vastly increased their poker bankroll by playing a lot or by winning a big tournament, so you’d say “from busto to robusto.”
Refers to a situation where you had to hit both cards on the turn and on the river to make your hand.
For example, you have two clubs in your hand and there’s only one club on the flop, so to make your flush, you have to hit a club on the turn and another one on the river.
Therefore you have a runner-runner flush draw.
Slang for pocket fours because the number 4 looks similar to a sail.
“Set mining” is when you call with a (usually small) pocket pair with the sole intention of flopping the set.
A “shark” is someone who knows the game very well and takes advantage of weaker players by punishing them for mistakes – the exact opposite of a donkey.
Most of the time, shark refers to a solid professional poker player.
The term is often used in a broader context too, as a “card shark” is someone well-versed in many card games, not just poker.
A “shill” is a person who tries to paint a
(usually false) positive picture about a specific product or company.
In the poker world, “shill” usually refers to forum users who go out of their way to justify certain poker rooms and their actions, giving false testimonies to try and throw other players off track.
A “sleeper straddle” is a special kind of straddle (optional blind bet made before any cards are dealt) and you won’t find it in many games.
The “sleeper” can be posted anywhere, at any
position, and it only becomes active if there is no action before everyone
Slang for pocket eights, as the number 8 looks like a snowman. You might also hear this hand being called “octopussy” and “infinities.”
Slang for the King of Hearts.
If you look closely, you’ll notice this card depicts a king with a sword drawn through his heart or head (at least in most standard decks).
The term was also popularized thanks to the famous book “The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King,” which describes high stakes games that poker elites (“The Corporation”) played against the wealthy banker Andy Beal.
Refers to a player who is thinking and taking time before making a decision. The name comes from “time bank.”
You’ll often see players tanking when they’re faced with a big bet on the turn or the river where their decision can have a substantial financial impact.
When a player has a large stack of chips in a tournament and takes a break to walk around the tournament area, they have “walking chips” because they have enough to be able to take a stroll and miss a few hands.
Strategically, this isn’t a good decision.
The only time it makes sense to do this is if you are playing in a satellite (a tournament where all winners get the ticket to another event) and are guaranteed a win because of your massive stack.
But even then, sticking at your table makes sense as you never know what will come up.
To whiff means to miss entirely on your draw. It’s
just another term for missing out on the card you need.
When you call a bet from another player holding
a flush draw, for example, but the turn card doesn’t help you at all, you’ve